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High Commendation Building

Motorola, Blunsden, Wiltshire

A superb factory and office, setting standards of working conditions and adaptability to match the new ultra-competitive demands of 21st century industry.

Pristine, flexible and elegant, Motorola's factory and offices on the northern fringe of Swindon is a project to lift the spirit. Its prime function is to provide clean and highly adaptable manufacturing space that can be rearranged easily to keep up with the latest developments in production of GSM radios for cellular phone ground stations. Technology for this equipment is changing rapidly and miniaturising in response to a valuable and highly competitive world market for first installation of telephone networks.

Motorola needed a production facility that could match these demands. The company also needed to keep its intentions secret for as long as possible so as not to give away any plans to its rivals.

Previously it had worked from five diverse sites around Swindon. The plan to bring all these together on a 26ha greenfield site in a 30,450m2 facility, designed from the start to allow for doubling or tripling in size, was regarded as a highly sensitive piece of information.

It was so sensitive that architectural practices were interviewed through an intermediary and told neither who the job was for or what the function of the project would be. The only hard fact they were given was that there was a project to do at the end of the selection process. Not even when Sheppard Robson made it to the shortlist of four were the partners told who the client was.

The concept is a street-like spine with all service trunk lines housed in a tube supported above its roof. Offices are arranged in modules on one side with the factory floor set on the other. All service areas such as the canteen and toilets are arranged so that there is no demarcation between those operating computers in the offices and those controlling computer driven manufacturing processes across the corridor.

Integration of services distribution within the envelope of the 'gull wing' long span trusses of the roof across the unobstructed manufacturing floor is superb. The result is that the structure and exposed services blend in a way that is unpretentious and entirely practical for maintenance or future modification.

Motorola's factory was built from scratch and occupied in just 12 months. Now the building is regularly shown off to visitors from the company's US parent as a world-class benchmark of what construction can achieve.





Principal designer

Sheppard Robson Architects

Structural engineer

Mott Macdonald


Tilbury Douglas Construction

Other firms

GVA Grimley (project manager and client representative)

Oscar Faber (building services)

Franklin & Andrews (QS)

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